An 18thC Italian Silver-Plated Bronze Catholic Ostensory or Monstrance c.1780

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Origin: Italian
Period: Baroque
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1780
Height: 16”
Width: 8.25”
Depth: 4.5”

The beautifully crafted ostensory or monstrance, for the display of relics or objects of piety, the upper section as a sunburst with cross finial, the circular glass compartment opening to reveal a vacant interior, over a winged cherub to a turned cylindrical shaft with chased lotus leaves, to a circular stepped base, the whole surviving from a Catholic church alter in the latter half of eighteenth century Italy.

The high artistic quality in the metal working decoration covers every part of this object with the patina being beautifully established, the bronze showing through the silver plate in the right areas where the priest would have continually picked up the piece. There are no losses to speak of other than very small ones to a few of the sunburst tips and the hinged glass relic compartment is a little fragile, with a small amount of loss to the outer ring to one side though it still operates as it should. To the underside there is an inscribed capital letter ‘N’.

A monstrance, ostensorium or ostensory is the vessel used in Roman Catholic, Old Catholic and Anglican churches for the more convenient exhibition of some object of piety, such as the consecrated Eucharistic host during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It is also used as reliquary for the public display of relics of some saints. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare, while the word ostensorium came from the Latin word ostendere. Both terms, meaning "to show", are used for vessels intended for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

These pieces are usually elaborate in design and most are carried by the priest. Others may be much larger fixed constructions, typically for displaying the host in a special side chapel, often called the "Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament". For portable designs, the preferred form is a sunburst on a stand, usually topped by a cross, as we see in this example.

A highly decorative and beautifully made object that illuminates a mantlepiece.

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